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Case Law: How to find and use case law: How to find case law online

What is case law? Where can you find Scottish and English case law? How can you check the status of case law?

How to find case law

You will usually wish to find a case by party names (case name), by citation, or by subject.

There are a number of ways to do this both online and in the Library using printed sources.

Video: Finding case law

How to find cases using a Westlaw Cases Search by:

e.g. Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers

You can search for a case by party names (case name) by entering these in the 'Parties' box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

Tip: For cases where one of the parties is 'Her Majesty's Advocate', use the search term Advocate (not HMA or Her Majesty's Advocate).

e.g. [2004] 2 AC 457

You can search for a case by citation by entering this in the 'Citation' box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: You can search by either the traditional citation to a series of law reports (e.g. [2004] 2 AC 457 or [2004] 2 All ER 995) or the more recent 'neutral citation' (e.g. [2004] UKHL 22).

e.g. Media and entertainment; Breach of confidence; Privacy; Supermodel

You can search for a case by general subjects or a more specific keywords by entering these in the 'Subject/Keyword' box.

You can search for a case by any term occurring in the text  by entering these in the 'Free Text' box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: 'Subjects' (e.g. media and entertainment) and 'keywords' (e.g. breach of confidence) are added by editors at Westlaw and describe the general subjects covered by a case.  'Free text' terms (e.g. supermodel) are any occurring in the full text of a case document - they may help find a specific case, but may not be relevant to the main legal issues considered in the case.

e.g. Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995, s.47

By selecting 'More options' you can use additional boxes to search for cases which cite a section of an act or other piece of legislation.

Enter the title of the act in the 'Legislation Title' box and then select the provision type (section, regulation etc.) from the 'Legislation Provision No.' dropdown and enter the number in the box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: You can also find cases which cite a section by finding the legislation/provision using a Legislation Search and then looking under the 'Primary References' to find 'Key Cases Citing' or 'All Cases Citing'.

e.g. Cadder v HM Advocate [2010] UKSC 43, 2011 SC (UKSC) 13

By selecting 'More options' you can use additional boxes to search for cases which cite  another earlier case.

Enter the party names (case name) in the 'Cases Cited (Party)' box or enter the citation in the 'Cases Cited (Citation)' box.

Select the 'Search' button.

A list of results matching your search will be displayed.

 

Tip: You can also find later cases which cite a particular case by finding the known case using a Cases Search and then, from the 'Case Analysis', looking under 'Primary References' to find 'Key Cases Citing' and 'All Cases Citing' .

How to use Lexis Library Cases search to find cases by:

e.g. Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers

You can search by party names by entering these in the ‘Case Name’ boxes.

e.g. [2004] 2 AC 457

You can search by citation by entering this in the ‘Citation’ field.

e.g. Confidence and data protection; Disclosure by newspaper; fashion model; drug addict

You can search using other terms by entering these in the ‘Search terms’ box.

Use connectors to link your terms. For help using connectors, follow the ‘Search tips’ link.

Tip: You can choose topics (subjects) by selecting 'Add topics to search', selecting the topics in the Subject Directory and then selecting 'OK-Add to Search'. To limit search terms to those found in the 'catchwords' or 'headnote' of a case in the 'Advanced search' options, enter these in the 'Summary' box.

On the cases ‘Search’ screen, select the ‘Browse’ link in the left-hand column.

You can then navigate from report series title, to volume, to case by using +/-.

Select the case name to view full-text.

How to find case law using other online sources

JustisOne

You can select the main 'Search' option and enter search terms.

Alternatively for a more refined search you can select 'Advanced' and then  select the ‘Cases’ link in the bar across the top of the advanced search page. Options for searching include:

  • Party Names: use the ‘Parties’ field in the Cases search.
  • Citation: use the ‘Citation’ field in the Cases search.
  • Subject: use the ‘Full Text’ field  in the Cases search.

The search results list displays records matching your query. Follow the link to individual records. To view the full text of the report, from the record select the ‘Full Text’ or 'Citations and Reports' link. If the full text is not available on JustisOne then you may be able to follow links to the full text on other sources (e.g. Westlaw or Lexis Library).

 

HeinOnline: English Reports, Full Reprint (1220 - 1865)

On the Welcome page under ‘Subscribed Libraries’, select ‘English Reports’, then ‘English Reports, Full Reprint (1220-1867)’. You can then choose to perform a simple ‘Case Locator’ search or ‘Browse’ the reports. Case Locator search options include:

  • Case Name (Bradshaw)
  • English Reports Citation (77 Eng Rep 1283)
  • Nominative Citation (2 Wils KB 137)
  • Key Word Search
BAILII

To look for cases, select the ‘Case Law Search’ link.

  • Party Names: use the ‘Case name’ field.
  • Citation: use the ‘Citation’ field.
  • Subject: use fields ‘All these words’, ‘Exact phrase’, ‘Any of these words’, or ‘Advanced query’.
Curia

By following the link to ‘Case law: Search form’, you can search by ‘Names of parties’, ‘Case number’, and ‘Words in the text’.

HUDOC

By following the links to ‘HUDOC database’, then ‘Advanced Search’, you can search by ‘Case Title’, ‘Application Number’, ‘Text’, and ‘Keyword’.

Online sources of case law

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